Gingerbread Dudes, Gals & Pups, plus *the best* gingerbread cookie recipe

EVERY year, I say I'm going to make gingerbread cookies more often.  And every year, I forget. But I'm making these again next week (and quite possibly the next week and the next).
I'm going to beg you....MAKE THESE COOKIES!  They are some of my favorite cookies ever....soft, chewy, spicy...delicious!
I had a little too much fun making these.  The gingerbread dudes and gingerbread gals were just decorated with a bit of royal icing.
Was it wrong to start pairing off the gingerbread couples? It's like eHarmony for cookies over here. 
{Sign you've spent too much time with your cookies? You start staring at the gingerbread girl wishing you had her outfit.}

Here's a little trick for making hair from Martha:
Use a garlic press (this is the only thing I ever use mine for). Just fill it with dough and....

These gingerbread scotties could not be easier.  A little collar, a little spring of holly...voila! Gingerbread Scottie Dog.
Here is the recipe.  I'm going to go out on a limb and call it the BEST GINGERBREAD COOKIE recipe I've ever found.  (I can say that because it's not my recipe, it's from the Southern Living Incredible Cookies cookbook.)

{{update 2012: while I still *love* this recipe, I developed a NEW one that I love even more for my book Decorating Cookies.  It's spicy & chewy, but with a smoother top for decorating.  I think you'll love it.  Click the link to go to the book.}}

Gingerbread Cookies
(modified from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

1/4 c. water
1 & 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. molasses
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
5 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1 & 1/2 TBSP ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 & 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Line baking sheets with parchment.

Stir together the water and baking soda until dissolved. Stir in the molasses; set aside.

Beat butter & sugar until fluffy and combined.

Whisk together flour, salt and spices.

Add to the butter mixture, alternating with the molasses mixture. Begin and end with the flour. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a floured cookie cutter and place on baking sheet. Freeze for 5 minutes before baking. {They are going to spread.}

Bake 10- 12 minutes (for a large shape). Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing.
 What are you waiting for?!?  Go make 'em!!
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